Background has a greater influence on the job and wages of workers in the UK than it does in any other comparable country. By the time workers are 25 years old, those from the poorest backgrounds earn £2 per hour less than those from the wealthiest backgrounds.
Education is a key factor in living standards, but at the moment children from disadvantaged backgrounds start school behind other children and the gap widens while at school. Businesses are challenged to play a more active role in helping schools to prepare all young people for successful careers that make the most of their potential, regardless of their background.
School reform has been a major feature of the CBI’s work since the launch of its First Steps report in 2012. In A better off Britain, the CBI argues that business must contribute to school reform by better linking up with schools to offer valuable, inspiring and engaging work experience, and ensuring that careers advice matches up to the jobs in demand in the economy.
Businesses must also lead in taking the next step on diversity. The business-led, voluntary approach to boosting the number of women in company boardrooms is progressing well, but diversity cannot be only about boardroom and gender. It must also be about ensuring doors are open to talent from all sources, and A better off Britain calls for businesses to place a stronger focus on achieving the widest socio-economic spread when hiring or offering internships.
The CBI argues that alongside this action by business, government must quicken the pace on schools reform with:
- A new statement of what schools should deliver which focuses on rigorous, rounded and ground and socially mobile young people
- A new Ofsted inspection regime which measures schools based on how well they prepare young people for work, as well as exam results
- A plan for the education system to peak with academic or vocational A-levels at aged 18 rather than at GCSEs
- Schools having a duty to provide work-related learning at ages 15–16, and a national network of Local Brokers being set-up to support schools in delivering it.